Yorico: second VERSE

Yorico’s second album, second VERSE, came at an inopportune time. I was enamored of SLOTH LOVE CHUNKS and VOLA & THE ORIENTAL MACHINE back in 2006, and while I recognized second VERSE was a good album, I couldn’t give it sufficient playback time to get a real feel for it.

Before the release of Yorico’s third album Negau in January 2008, I went back to second VERSE to see whether Yorico was an artist in whom I could really invest. I’m sorry for not having paid second VERSE my undivided attention, because this album is so far her loudest and most ambitious.

It was apparent with the departure of Onitsuka Chihiro from EMI Japan’s roster that Yorico was brought in to fill the void. Her piano-driven songs didn’t rely so much on the Carole King influence as Onitsuka, but on the surface, they seemed complimentary enough. There was also a hint of a rocker in Yorico, a trait that informs but doesn’t quite drive EMI’s other major source of income, Utada Hikaru.

second VERSE, however, establishes Yorico as an artist apart from Onitsuka or Utada. The balladry that dominated her debut Cocoon gave way to a mostly boisterous album full of rock songs geared for the anime theme song set — melodic enough to hook a viewer but hard enough to mask its pop underpinnings.

To western ears, these rockers sound like the descendants of Def Leppard and ’80s hair metal. If Sebastian Bach were delivering the dramatic conclusion of "Saa Ima Kimi to", it would sound ridiculous. Instead, Yorico’s deceptively tender voice turns into a formidable roar, making the metal machinations seem less preposterous.

"Fukushou" sounds like Bougainvillia-era Cocco, with Yorico spitting out lyrics over grunge guitars cleaned up to reveal their more metal roots. (Again with the metal.) "Daia no Hana", meanwhile, mixes a bit more electronics, hinting at a post-Nine Inch Nails inspiration.

Yorico takes the albums to extreme, following big numbers with sparse piano songs. "HIKARI" and "second Birthday" remind listeners her element lies more in introspection. This kind of sequencing can feel like whiplash, but in its own weird way, it works.

The remaining tracks demonstrate more of Yorico’s range as a writer. "Vant" goes for a swing beat, while "Tada Te wo Anata ni Nobashite" starts off quietly before turning to a big closer. Acoustic guitars drive "Taiyou", while "Uta" focuses on Yorico and her piano.

second VERSE offers a lot of different music from a single performer. The heaviest moments are unmistakably heavy, while the quieter moments can feel expansive. Yorico really shows her ambition with this album, and as extreme her music can get, she doesn’t lose her focus.

I’m glad I gave second VERSE a second look.